Counts

A count allows you to obtain election results for ranked ballots you have collected in other ways (e.g., paper ballots or another electronic voting system). You can choose a variety of counting methods, such as instant runoff voting, the single transferable vote, and Condorcet voting.

Counts have two stages: EDITING and END.

Editing

During the EDITING stage, you provide the ballots and specify the counting method. Once you progress to the END stage you cannot change the ballots so double check to make sure the ballots have been uploaded correctly.

  • Title of election — This title appears at the top of the results page. If you upload a ballot file, this will be overwritten by the title in the ballot file.
  • Notes (optional) — Write any notes you like here. These are only visible to you. Notes are expecially useful if you have multiple elections with the same title.
  • Number of winners — When electing a president, there is typically one winner, but when electing a committee or council, there may be more than one winner. If you upload a ballot file, this will be overwritten by the value in the ballot file.
  • Method — The method used to count the votes. For more information about the available counting methods, see here. Some methods have additional options that you can find below.
  • Withdrawn candidates — You can remove candidates from the ballots before counting them. This is useful if a candidate has resigned after collecting the votes, or if you need to select a backup winner.

End

At the END stage, you can see the election results with your chosen counting method. You can also recount the votes with a different counting method.

Counting Options

Some counting methods have options, and these options are described here:

  • Candidate Elimination — With RCV counting methods, candidates with the smallest number of votes are eliminated. This can be done in several ways.
    • Single — Candidates are always eliminated one at a time.
    • Zero — The first time that candidates are eliminated, all candidates with zero votes are eliminated simultaneously. Afterwards, candidates are eliminated one by one.
    • Losers — All candidates who cannot win the election are eliminated simultaneously. At a given round of counting, one can look at the distribution of votes, and determine mathematically which candidates still have a chance of winning and which candidates cannot possibly win.
  • Tie Breaking — As with any election, ties may occur in RCV elections. Ties may occur when selecting candidates to eliminate, selecting surplus votes for transfer, or selecting winners. Several options for breaking ties are available.
    • Random — The tie is broken randomly (like flipping a coin).
    • Backward — The vote count at the previous round is used to break the tie. Suppose we are selecting a candidate to eliminate at round 4 and Alice and Bob are tied for last place. The tie would be broken by comparing Alice and Bob's vote counts at round 3. If they are still tied at round 3, then round 2 is used and so forth. If the candidates are tied at all rounds, then the tie is broken randomly.
    • Forward — The vote count at round 1 is used to break the tie. Suppose we are selecting a candidate to eliminate at round 4 and Alice and Bob are tied for last place. The tie would be broken by comparing Alice and Bob's vote counts at round 1. If they are tied at round 1, then round 2 is used and so forth. If the candidates are tied at all rounds, then the tie is broken randomly.
  • Precision — Some STV methods use fractional votes. To use fractional votes, a precision (the number of digits after the decimal point) must be specified.
  • Fractional Threshold — STV methods have a winning threshold (the Droop quota). A candidate who reaches this threshold is declared elected. The winning threshold may be a whole number (to simplify the results) or a fraction (to obtain more precision, which may be useful with a small number of voters).
  • Dynamic Threshold — The winning threshold in an STV election may be static or dynamic. A static threshold is determined at the beginning of the election and does not change. A dynamic threshold is computed at each round and may decrease as votes become exhausted (when votes do not count towards any candidate because the voter did not rank all of the candidates).
  • Delay Surplus Transfer — At each round of an STV count, it is decided whether to eliminate a candidate or to transfer suplus votes.
    • Off — Transferring surplus votes is not delayed. At each round, if any candidate has a surplus, then surplus votes are transferred in the round. Candidates are only eliminated if no candidates have surplus votes.
    • On — Transferring surplus votes is delayed if there is a canddiate in the election who cannot win (see Candidate Elimination above). At each round, the decision proceeds in three steps: (i) if there are candidates who cannot win, then those candidates are eliminated, (ii) if all candidates could still win, then surplus votes are transferred, and (iii) if there are no surplus votes, then the last place candidate is eliminated. Delaying transfers of surplus votes simplifies the counting process because transferring surplus votes requires splitting votes into fractions and eliminating candidates does not.
  • Ballot Completion — This is only for the Borda Count. With the Borda Count, voters have incentive to rank only their first choice candidate so the second choice cannot cause the first choice to lose. Turning ballot completion on reduces this incentive. With ballot completion, a ballot that ranks fewer than all the candidates (an incomplete ballot) is completed by adding the remaining candidates. For example, if there are 5 candidates running and a voter specifies only a first choice, the other four candidates will be added to the ballot as all tied for second.